Taormina, about 200m above sea level, resembles a huge balcony with a dramatic view of the Etna volcano. The town is surely the major and most renowned sea resort in Sicily, but it is much frequented all the year-round. It is endowed with a large number of hotels, restaurants and every type of entertainment facility. For centuries it has been a favorite attraction, being frequented by illustrious figures such as Emperor William II of Germany, writers like Goethe, Maupassant, Lawrence, A. France, Wilde, Brahms, fashion designers like Dior, noblewomen like Florence Trevelyan, and German painter Geleng. Taormina has also enraptured numerous film makers, such as Michelangelo Antonioni, that there set his “The Adventure” in 1960.
TAORMINA PHOTOGRAPHIC TOUR
A photographic gallery counting over 340 photos of places, nature, landscapes and monuments of Taormina.
Taormina FilmFest 2002
Taormina’s BNL FilmFest 2002, directed by Felice Laudadio, runs from 6 to 13 July.
Taormina Arte (more) Running June 29 – August 11.
First held in 1983, this event features international cinema, music and theatre, attracting people and tourists from everywhere. The cinematographic section comes this year to its 48th edition.
The Festivalbar is a renowned international pop music show, hosted in the splendid Antique Theatre of Taormina.
HISTORY OF TAORMINA
The history of Taormina has alternated periods of prosperity and of decline.
The city was founded by a group of refugees from the close Naxos, one of the earliest Greek colonies in Sicily, conquested by Dionysios I, tyrant of Syracuse, in 396 BC.
Greeks gave the city their typical architectural design, with the agorà, the acropolis in the Tauro Mount, the Bouleuterion and the seat of the city counsil. The theatre dates from the 3rd century BC. It is referred to as the “Antique Theatre” and is the symbol and the major attraction of the town. It sits atop a hill surrounded by a dramatic landscape and overlooking the Etna volcano.
Many buildings underwent considerable refurbishments during the Roman rule, although Romans maintained the original urban plan of the city. The theatre was even turned into an amphitheatre for the gladiators fights. The Romans built numerous new buildings, that are a pride of the town, such as the “Naumachie”, one of today’s major cultural sites, consisting of a monumental terrace that contained a big cistern.
Successively, the town was retaliated against for having supported Sextus Pompey against Octavian who ultimately prevailed. Upon the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, and the decline of Syracuse, it became the capital of the Eastern Sicily. Several constructions testify to the Byzanthine domination, such as the second line of walls, that they added to the original hellenistic structure. The strategic location of the town was much exploited by the Byzanthines, who likely built the fortresses situated on the Tauro Mount and on the Mola Peak.
The city became the seat of an archibishop and grew both demographically and territorially (most southwards).
The Arabians occupied it from 902 through 1079, year of the Norman conquest. They first razed the city and then erected some new buildings, such as the tower that is today part of the renowned Palazzo Corvaia (better described in the cultural goods section).
Under Normans Taormina slightly declined to the close Messina, albeit expanding its territory with the founding of a new settlement between Porta di Mezzo and Porta del Tocco.
It definitively declined under the Spaniards, who sell many public lands and hamlets to solve the economic difficulties of the town.
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WHERE TO EAT
WHERE TO STAY
WHERE TO GO
A complete list of the tourism facilities.
Restaurants, trattorias, pizzerias, pubs, agritourism farms, hotels and boarding houses.
Symbol and major attraction of the town is the Theatre, referred to as the “Antique Theatre”.
110 metres in diameter it offers a breath-taking view of the Etna volcano and of the coast.
It dates from the 3rd century BC and was successively restructured by the Romans who turned it into an amphiteatre for the gladiators fights. It is characterized by three basilar architectonic elements: the stage, the orchestra and the auditorium. The present structure dates back to 2nd century AD. An high podium was added for safety reasons. Presently it hosts cultural and artistic events, especially recurring during the summer season, such as the “Taormina Arte” festival.
A few distance away are the ruins of an ancient temple and an Antiquarium collecting relics discovered in the city environs. The Antiquarium is a small archaeological museum with interesting marble statues and relics from a Roman Theatre dated the 2nd century BC, and from a 1st century BC Roman Villa.
The Naumachie are one of the best Roman specimens in Taormina and in all Sicily. They consist of an imposing architectural construction that once contained a big cistern. A polygonal floor in lava blocks was discovered during recent works of restoration.
Worth-visiting is the Odeon, a small theatre similar, in its structure, to the Antique Theatre. It was discovered towards the end of 1800’s and is located in the north-eastern side of Taormina, near the Palazzo Corvaia.
The city offers plenty of beautiful palazzi, such as Palazzo Corvaia, a castle named after the aristocratic family who owned it from the 17th through the 19th century. Presently it belongs to the municipality and houses the Municipal Library. It has an imposing façade with a battlement and a three-mullioned window. It underwent several refurbishments over the centuries. The cubic tower and the central side of the castle date from the Arabian rule. Its left side was built in the 13th century while its right side dates from the 15th century. Other styles are visible inside. Noteworthy are three relief panels depicting scenes from the Biblical Genesis.
Another worth-mentioning aristocratic building is the Palace of the Dukes of Santo Stefano, built for the Spanish De Spuches family, Dukes of Santo Stefano and Princes of Galati, two small cities in the Messina area. The palace is situated within the city walls, in their recently restored side.
Despite its not excessive dimension, it has an imposing look, and offers a mixture of gothic, arab and norman styles. A very nice garden is located nearby, containing a well that gathers rain waters used for the needs of the building. The two sides looking outside the city-walls have the imposing look of a fortress, whereas those on the opposite side have a more picturesque and nice look. Of the three original halls only remained one on the ground floor, with a nice cross-vault and archs. Bought by the municipality in the ‘60s, it hosts the G. Mazzullo Foundation, displaying sculpture and graphic works, and holding occasional exhibitions.
The “Badia Vecchia” also called “Badiazza” is a tower with battlement of norman origin, refurbished in the 14th century.
Both the constructions, the Palazzo Santo Stefano and the Badia Vecchia, were meant to respectively guard the northern and the southern side of the city.
The Badiazza, probably a former abbey, is the owned by the municipality.
The Palazzo Ciampoli is located at the centre of the city and is one of the most ancient buildings in town, as attests an inscription in its ogival arch reporting the date 1412. Presently it is in a poor condition, notably its façade.
The historical city doors enrich the architecture of Taormina.
The urban plan is of clear medieval origin, based on a number of thouroughfares, among which is Corso Umberto I, stretching from the Porta Messina to the Porta Catania. Along this main road there are several renowned meeting place, such as 9th April’s Square, offering a panoramic view of the bay and of the Etna volcano, and Duomo Square, with a beautiful baroque fountain where rises the Centaur, symbol of the city.
The castle of Castelmola, is located in Castelmola, a village near Taormina, that was an outpost against foreign invasions. The castle, nestled atop a cliff overlooking a terrific landscape, only retains some few ruins.
Several churches are also a major attraction for tourists.
The city cathedral, dedicated to San Nicolò, is a three-naved church with a latin-cross plan, that contains several altars and sacred works. The original construction dates back to the 13th century, but was refurbished over the centuries. The façade shows a battlement, that gives the church the look of a fortress, a rose-window and two nice mullioned-windows.
The Cathedral preserves numerous works of art, such as a painting from the 15th century, and a precious polyptich by Antonello de Saliba, dating from the 1500’s.
The church of Santa Caterina d’Alessandria, right close to the Palazzo Corvaia and to the remnants of the Odeon, dates back to the 17th century and was later restructured. Outside there is a statue dedicated to Santa Caterina within a niche. Inside it contains many other works of art.
The church of Saint George is an anglican church willed by the british community that lives in Taormina since the beginning of the 1900’s. Inside it has several archs made from Syracuse stone, and two main naves.
The church of Sant’Agostino was built on the former church of San Sebastiano around the end of the 1400’s by the Augustinian Fathers. Inside it has four decorated niches and houses a library.
SEA AND NATURE
Taormina is a much developed tourism resort, worldwide renowned and endowed with a large number of hotels, restaurants and every type of entertainment facility. It has a nice climate and a rich vegetation, with several other tourism sites located close-at-hand.
The city offers plenty of beaches, bathing sites and green areas. Some bathing spots are a must-see, like the Mazzarò Bay, stretching between Capo Sant’Andrea and the Isola Bella.
Once mostly exploited for fishing, sea represents today a fundamental tourism resource.
The Municipal Garden, dedicated to the Duke Colonna of Cesarò is a green area offering a panoramic view of the coast and of the volcano, and a rich vegetation mainly composed of tropical and mediterranean plants. Willed to the city by English noblewoman Florence Trevelyan, it is located in the centre of the town, south of the theatre.
Taormina has a number of beautiful beaches, such as the little Bay of Mazzarò, stretching out to Capo Sant’Andrea, with some beautiful marine grottos, and, nearby, the famous faraglioni.
Close-at-hand to Taormina are several nice sites and resorts:
Letoianni, a close tourism developed resort, offering both natural beauties and a highly appreciated seafood cuisine; Castelmola, where is a nice castle and a lake; the Etna volcano; Giardini Naxos, that is another famous tourism resort; the area of the Alcantara river, whose canyons originate from eruptions of a small volcano north of Etna and from the erosion of the river. Ita canyons, about 20m deep, are especially frequented in the summer season.